Cruel World

Cruel World

The Children of Europe in the Nazi Web

Book - 2005
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Random House, Inc.
To be a child in mid-twentieth-century Europe was to be not a person but an object, available for use in the service of the totalitarian state. Very soon after Adolf Hitler came to power, policies of eugenic selection and euthanasia began to weed ill or disabled children out of the New Order by poison, gas, and starvation. Defect-free “good blood” children were subjected to an “education” based on racism, propaganda, and the glorification of the Führer, and were deliberately deprived of free time that would allow independent thought or action.

Once the war began, “Nordic”-looking children were kidnapped from families in the conquered lands and subjected to “Germanization.” Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of “bad blood” children—Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Ukrainians, Russians(were separated from their families and condemned to forced migration, slave labor, sadistic experiments, starvation, and mass execution. At the end of the war, uprooted children of every origin wandered the bombed-out cities and countryside, some having been taken from home at such a young age that they did not know where they had come from or even their own names. Millions surged into and out of DP camps, exploited by political and religious groups, while the Allies and the fledgling United Nations tried mightily to put families back together and to find new homes for the orphans.

All the riveting narrative skill and impeccable scholarship that distinguished Lynn Nicholas’s first book, The Rape of Europa (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction), are present in her study of these terrible crimes against humanity. To research this story she has delved into the governmental and military archives of many nations, and has interviewed countless individuals. She shows the relationship of the deadly Nazi policies to the brutal tactics used in the USSR in the 1930s and to their rehearsal in the Spanish Civil War, and vividly describes the abject failure of Hitler’s campaign to plant Germanizing colonies in the conquered nations. She gives us the stories of survivors of ghastly war-spawned famines(in Greece and Russia in the 1940s, Holland in the “Hunger Winter” of 1945, and Berlin in the Airlift year of 1949(and of British, French, and Dutch children who were evacuated to the countryside; boys and girls sent alone from Europe to England on the Kindertransports; the teenaged soldiers of the Reich; the small veterans of the quarries, the factories, and the camps as well as those who survived in lonely hiding.

In Cruel World Lynn Nicholas shows us clearly, and with passionate empathy for the innocent victims, the crimes against children that inevitably result when ideology overwhelms humanity. This powerful book, as it recounts the waking nightmare that enmeshed the lives of Europe’s boys and girls, bears witness to our own responsibility to the children of the twenty-first century.

Baker & Taylor
Examines the devastating influence of Nazism on the lives of the children of Europe, who were confronted with euthanasia, racist education, eugenics, forced relocation, homelessness, poverty, trauma, and starvation.

Book News
To research her study of European children affected by Nazi policies, Nicholas interviewed many of the survivors and examined the governmental and military archives of several nations. She shows the relationship between Nazi policies and tactics used in the USSR in the 1930s and in the Spanish Civil War. She also recounts the stories of the Kindertransport children, the teenaged children of the Reich, and the survivors of wartime famines, camps and factories. Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Examines the devastating influence of Nazism on the lives of the children of Europe, including those of Germany itself, who confronted euthanasia, racist education, eugenics, forced relocation, homelessness, poverty, trauma, and starvation, and describes efforts, often futile, to restore these children to some semblance of normal life in the wake of the war. 20,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : A.A. Knopf, 2005
ISBN: 9780679454649
Characteristics: xix, 632 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm


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Mar 01, 2010

Brilliant book. Excellent research and scope. Great for anyone interested in the other stories of WWII.


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